Getting started with PodSecurityPolicy on EKS

As you might already know, security is not something that a specialized department should be responsible for. Instead, we all should bear in mind that security matters and build secure solutions from the very beginning. Today we’re gonna talk about some practices in the world of containerized apps and Kubernetess. So let’s say we have some best practices for the containerized workloads. But how to enforce that? We’ll tell you right away.

And the answer is actually pretty straightforward. Do you want to enforce some security policies? Use Pod Security Policy resource. In reality, Pod Security Policy is just an admission controller which is able to check if pods comply to assigned set of rules.

For instance, we can check if pod is not running in privileged mode or we can also restrict the use of certain volumes types, this comes handy for example when you don’t want to allow access to host filesystem.

So why do I even write this post? We have some specialized resource so we just create it and that’s it, right? Well, it’s not that easy. And that’s why I wrote this article. Let’s begin.

Key principles

As already mentioned, Pod Security Policy is just another Kubernetes resource. The following document contains a really simple policy that prohibits the run of privileged containers.

apiVersion: policy/v1beta1
kind: PodSecurityPolicy
  name: example
  privileged: false
    rule: RunAsAny
    rule: RunAsAny
    rule: RunAsAny
    rule: RunAsAny
  - '*'

But when you apply this document with kubectl, it just does nothing. That’s because PSP mechanism is deeply integrated with RBAC system. In order to use this policy, you need to authorize the respective accounts to use it first.

RBAC magic

So this is the basic ClusterRole which authorizes the use of verb use on the PSP created before.

kind: ClusterRole
  name: psp:example
- apiGroups:
    - policy
    - podsecuritypolicies
    - use
  - example

Now we need to bind this ClusterRole to the certain ServiceAcccout. Here I need to step in and add some context. Why are we talking about ServiceAccounts when the workload is created by some users from flesh and bones?

The thing is that usually, we don’t create pod resources by ourselves but we’re using some controllers instead. You can check more details in the official documentation. So the whole job is done by someone else hence we need to bind ClusterRole accordingly. To show you the whole picture, here are ServiceAccount and Deployment resources we want to use for our workload.

apiVersion: v1
kind: ServiceAccount
  name: app
  namespace: app-test
apiVersion: apps/v1
kind: Deployment
  name: app
  namespace: app-test
    app: app
  replicas: 1
      app: app
        app: app
      serviceAccountName: app
      - name: app
        image: mycustomnamespace/app:v1.0.0
        - containerPort: 80

Now we know that ServiceAccount app lives in the app-test Namespace so we can create a suitable ClusterRoleBinding.

kind: ClusterRoleBinding
  name: psp:example:app:app-test
  kind: ClusterRole
  name: psp:example
- kind: ServiceAccount
  name: app
  namespace: app-test

From now, we should be able to run our workload as long as it does not run in privileged mode. Sweet.

EKS-specific configuration

But let’s talk about EKS. This offering has enabled PSP out of the box. Do you have any experience with EKS? If yes, you know then that you are able to create any workload with no restrictions.

However, it does not mean that policy engine is not enabled. The reason is that PSP is a pretty comprehensive topic so EKS comes with preconfigured policy bound to all authenticated users.

The key elements are PodSecurityPolicy eks.privileged and ClusterRoleBinding eks:podsecuritypolicy:authenticated.

What I’m saying here is that in order to apply your own rules you need to delete those resources and start on the green field.

kubectl delete podsecuritypolicy eks.privileged
kubectl delete clusterrolebinding eks:podsecuritypolicy:authenticated

But when you do so, please be prepared for the following: no new pods can be created from now. You’ll most likely get a similar error since we need at least one policy in order to start any pod with Pod Security Policy enabled.

unable to validate against any pod security policy: []

All mentioned is already documented by Amazon, personally I really like this blog post with a step-by-step guide.

RBAC pitfalls

When applying ultra restrictive policies, time to time you might encounter situations when the pod starts even when it does not comply with the PodSecurityPolicy. From my experience, it’s always caused by incorrectly configured RBAC.

For instance, you’ve allowed all verbs to all resources in the extensions API group so now your ServiceAccount is assigned to all PodSecurityPolicy resources hence the restrictions don’t work as intended.

Please also note that some resources are availabel in multiple api groups. For instance, PodSecurityPolicy can be in policy and extensions at the same time! Dangerous stuff 😀

But don’t worry, you can address such issues with auth can-i command!

kubectl auth can-i use podsecuritypolicy/example --namespace app-test --as app


Security really matters and you should not skip PodSecurityPolicy just because it’s not as straightforward as other Kubernetes resources. Sure, this component can’t save the whole world but it can help you with some basics. Moreover, it’s no so complex as you could see in this post. Give it a shot!

Do you have any specific questions regarding PSP? Do not hesitate to reach us, we’re always happy to help.

Additional resources